“Hódmezõvásárhely” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Hungary

46º25'N, 20º20'E

Translation of the “Hódmezõvásárhely” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Hungary

Edited by: Theodore Lavi

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 1975


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Acknowledgments

Project Coordinator

Francine Shapiro

 

Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem
for permission to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Hungary: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Hungary,
Edited by Theodore Lavi, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem. Pages 275-278.


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.


[Pages 275-278]

Hódmezõvásárhely

Translated by Shlomo Sné
Edited by Francine Shapiro

A city in Csongrad district on the Tisza River, 15 kilometers from Szeged,
Population (1941): 61,776
Called Samson by Jews

Jewish Population

YearNumber% of
Population
1848629--
1857805--
18691,3122.6
18801,6853.2
18901,5742.8
19001,5702.6
19101,3812.2
19201,2262.0
19301,1511.9
1948430--
1953290--
1955259--

Until the End of the First World War

The Development of the Jewish Community

There was no Jewish community in Hódmezõvásárhely at the beginning of the eighteenth century, but Jews visited it on business. There is a document from 1748 that mentioned that a Jew was punished because he sold alcoholic drinks, when this right was given only to the estate owner. In 1810 the estate owner gave to Hódmezõvásárhely Jews the rights to sell kosher wine, over the opposition of the City Council.

The first Jews settled there in the middle of the eighteenth century, after they got permission from the estate owner, Graf (Count) Karolyi Sandor. We have testimony that in 1750 the local authorities punished Christians who beat a Jew in the town. By this testimony we can learn that by then a few Jews had settled there. At the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth, large numbers of Jews began moving from the estates and villages to the big cities, and this period signaled the beginning of the Jewish community.

Jewish merchants who settled in Hódmezõvásárhely were in conflict with Greek merchants, who were frightened by the competition. The Greeks also libeled them to the authorities, saying for example: Jews were poisoning the wells. In spite of these obstacles the number of local Jews increased without interruption, the estate owner patronized them continuously, and defended them against the City Council, which still objected to Jewish settlement in the city. The city permitted their settlement only at the beginning of the nineteenth century. In exchange for patronage Jews paid the estate owner high taxes. (Count) Graf Karolyi Sandor also supported Jewish merchants who came to Hódmezõvásárhely from other places, and personally dealt with their problems without interference from the City Council.

The City Council created unending difficulties for the Jews who had settled there. In 1828 it decided not to accept more Jews in the city. Three years later in 1831, the authorities officially ratified the Jewish community of Hódmezõvásárhely, and forced it to send Jewish recruits to the army. During the 1830's the local Jewish merchants suffered from competition from other Jewish merchants who came from other places in Hungary, when the newcomers received licenses from the estate owner to lease saloons or sell feathers. These Jews did not agree to pay the taxes that the local Jews had to pay, but on the other hand robbed them of their source of income. The local Jews then asked the City Council to prohibit non-local Jews from trading in the city.

Jews continued to come and settle in Hódmezõvásárhely, despite the obstacles that they encountered, the many taxes they had to pay, so their number increased quickly. The majority made their living in trade and the others in artisanship, such as glazing, baking, watch making, tanning, and plumbing. In 1842 they included 16 merchants, 17 peddlers, and ten artisans. The rest were old people and those supported by welfare. In 1843 there already were 90 merchants and peddlers, four farmers and leasers, one cotton ball factory owner, a doctor, goldsmith, three tailors, a shoemaker, a hat maker, etc. There were many more merchants than artisans, because the artisans' association limited the numbers of Jews accepted into their unions.

In 1848 the Jews of Hódmezõvásárhely enthusiastically joined the fighters for Hungarian liberty, and 40 of them served in the National Guard. After the suppression of the rebellion in 1849, the Austrian authorities imposed a heavy tax on Hungarian Jews for participating. The town's Jews' share of the tax was very large. In addition five local Jews were forcibly recruited into the Habsburg army.

Imperial authorities imposed heavy limitations on Hungary's Jews during the 1850's. The communities' independence was taken away, and stringent inspections were imposed. The leaders of the Hódmezõvásárhely community were ordered to give the police commander a list of local Jews and their tax books in 1852. Community leaders were warned they must prevent the entrance of other Jews without permits. The police commander fired the head of the community, and chose someone else, all without elections. The community committee was ordered to have its sessions in the presence of a representative of the police commander. In 1866 the authorities demanded that the local Jews open a special appeal for the injured of the Austrian-Prussian War, but the community postponed this demand with the argument that the local Jews gave their share along with other citizens of the city.

The Community, Its Organization and Development

At the beginning of the nineteenth century in Hódmezõvásárhely there was already an organized community that was served by a rabbi, a council, three teachers, and a beadle. At that time the stamp of the community was in Hebrew and German, but in 1840 was changed to a Hungarian stamp. At this time the list of births and the community protocol had begun to be written in Hungarian.

The community expenses were originally financed by a tax on kosher slaughter, tuition fees, and various funds. A single tax was imposed from 1865, after many Jews secretly slaughtered animals for themselves in order to evade payment, and an appeal to the authorities to prevent secret kosher slaughter failed.

In 1869 the community denominated itself as Neolog, and became subject to the community of Szeged. Community regulations printed in 1870 were ratified in 1889 by the religious and education ministry. A small Orthodox group withdrew from the community in 1872 and rented a separate place for a synagogue, but reunited with the majority community in 1874. Another attempt to separate from the community in 1875 also failed.

The Hódmezõvásárhely community was distinguished by Jewish and public awareness. In 1879 after the nearby town of Szeged was ruined by floods, the Hódmezõvásárhely community absorbed 30 Jewish families who escaped and aided in its restoration. In 1882 the community sent a donation for the aid of pogrom victims in Russia. In 1885 a eulogy assembly was organized in Hódmezõvásárhely to memorialize Sir Moses Montefiore, the famous Donator.

The community celebrated the 25th anniversary of the coronation of Emperor Franz Joseph I in great glory and dignity, and in 1894 gave a handsome donation to build a memorial in Budapest to the national Hungarian hero Lajos Kossuth.

Unions and Institutions: Hevra Kadisha, Women's Society (established in 1860), Young Jewish Women's Society, a society to tend the ill (established in 1871), a society to aid the poor (established in 1882), and a Maon Ahava (residential care for the ill). A Jewish school was established in 1845. It had three classes in it for boys only, and two teachers. The institution was enlarged in 1856, and included classes for girls. A female teacher was added to the teaching staff. In 1855 there were 106 boys and 32 girls studying in it. It is noteworthy that the teaching staff included Ignace Stern, whose book on the Kabala explained the movement systematically, and was published in segments in a periodical called Ben Hanania.

In 1859 the school gained recognition from the local authorities, who allocated a certain sum of money to support it.

Synagogues: In 1833 the community received a plot of land from the estate owner to build a synagogue. His clerk provoked an argument, and prevented the Jewish community from receiving the land by using various pretexts. At last the community bought another piece of land, and in 1857 it inaugurated the new synagogue and hired a cantor. From that time it became a tradition to pray for the health of the Kaiser in German, and for the country in Hungarian. An organ was placed in the synagogue in 1897, and in 1899 a choir was established. From 1902 all the sermons and the prayers were said in Hungarian. In 1908 when the synagogue began to seem old and rickety, a new and splendid synagogue was built, all of it thanks to the donations of the community members, without any outside help.

Rabbis: Famous rabbis of Hódmezõvásárhely were Lyosh Seltmann, 1879-1932; his writings in Hebrew were published in the periodical HaYehudi edited by Lippe, Otzar HaTzifrut edited by Gerber, and in Hungarian and German anthologies. He also wrote the books Lulei Demistofina (1898), and The Woman in the Talmud (1886). There was Meir Weisz (1933-1937), who later became a professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Aharon Silberstein (1938-1944) was the last rabbi of the community, and he wrote a monograph about its history.

In 1930 these communities became subject to Hódmezõvásárhely: Hódtó, (3 people), Kopács (1), Kopacs –nagiret (1), Fecskes (1), Sóstópartihalom (1), Szentesi-ut (5), and Szörhat (1).

Thirty members of the Hódmezõvásárhely community were killed on various fronts during the First World War, and many were outstanding in battle and earned medals and commendations. Others were taken prisoner by the Russians and Italians. In 1923 a memorial tablet commemorating the war heroes was set up in the synagogue.

Between the Two World Wars

A local Jewish youth was killed a short time later during Romanian rule. Local Jews favored the former regime during the Communist coup after the First World War. Some of them were very active, and three were executed by the Communist authorities, but the White Terror began in 1921, and many communities suffered from it. Hódmezõvásárhely was untouched by this in a certain measure thanks to D. Baltazár, the Calvinist community bishop of Debrecen, who supported the Jews and did his best for their sake.

As a sign of esteem for his activities, the Jewish community gave a good sum of money to the Calvinist Gymnasium in the town. The economic situation improved after the war, although numbers declined. This time there were 29 important merchants, 168 less important merchants, 10 industrialists, among them the owner of a steel mill and a saw mill, 38 artisans, 12 farmers, three estate owners, 12 lawyers, 12 doctors, and 100 more clerks and professionals, among them three teachers and seven government or municipal officials. 12 people lived on welfare.

There was a trend in the direction of assimilation among many Jews of Hódmezõvásárhely after the First World War, and there were some conversions. In the Jewish press in Hungarian there were articles that blamed the local Jewish school for the spate of assimilation. An association for the progress of Jewish culture was established in 1927, but in 1937 it was ended because of the atmosphere of integration.

The local Jews' economy was ruined after the publication of the Discrimination Laws in 1938. 48 members of the community converted to Christianity during the years 1938-39 because of the difficult situation.

The Holocaust

In October 1941 a group Jewish forced laborers from various places in Hungary was posted in Hódmezõvásárhely. Later they were sent from there through Szeged to Bor in Yugoslavia. In March 1944, after the entrance of the German army, the Jews of Hódmezõvásárhely were ordered to put yellow stars on their clothing and shut themselves in their houses. Their shops were confiscated, and all the men up to the age of 48 were taken for forced labor.

All of them were concentrated in the synagogue on June 16, and their money and jewelry were taken while they were being beaten and tortured. On June 19 they were brought to the Szeged ghetto and forced to live in the warehouses of a brick factory, where they suffered from cold and hunger. Some Jews committed suicide because of the harsh conditions.

On June 20 some of the local Jews were transported to Auschwitz, and others were taken to Wiener Neustadt in Austria. Other forced labor units remained there.

After the War

About 400 survivors, the majority of them from Austria returned to Hódmezõvásárhely and reorganized community life. In 1947 the building of the local branch of the liberated slave laborers organization was opened. There were 430 Jews in 1948, but since then their numbers have declined.


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

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